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Byron Shire
November 30, 2021

The lack of real affordable housing and who to blame

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I refer to the letter ‘Unaffordable’ by Byron shire councillor Paul Spooner recently.

‘Byron Bay has zero affordable accommodation for renting’ – rather belated revelation. As a person who has been sleeping in her car since 2010, unlike Cr Spooner, I became aware of the aforementioned years ago.

‘It’s not good enough to blame the real estate market, the local, state or federal government’. Why not? They are to blame. While I agree that merely stating who is to ‘blame’ is ‘not good enough’, unfortunately dragging those who are to ‘blame’ out of their homes and guillotining them in a public square is not a civilised solution to the problem.

The civilised option being that council comply with the Law (in relation to caravan parks located upon Crown Land – publicly owned land) and meet council’s responsibility to uphold zoning regulations.

However, Byron Shire Council refuses to negate the affordable housing crisis via the aforementioned civilised solution. So perhaps it is time to purchase knitting needles and yarn.

‘Byron Council has dipped its toe into the affordable housing space by asking North Coast Community Housing’ (private enterprise) ‘to see if it (NCCH) can build some affordable housing units on land’ – that is Crown Land – ‘that it’ (Byron Shire Council) ‘wants to sell in Station Street’.

I am at a loss to comprehend how council selling publicly owned land in Mullumbimby to private enterprise will make rents more affordable in Byron Bay.

‘We’ – collective pronoun lacking a reference noun – ‘need to seriously consider changing the way we approach housing before it is too late for many in this region’.

It is already ‘too late’ for the numerous citizens who have been obliged to leave Byron Bay and Byron Shire due to being unable to acquire affordable accommodation; and for persons who have been driven into ‘mental illness’ from the distress associated with the inability to find accommodation; and for persons who have lost custody of their children – and for the children who have been taken by ‘the authorities’ simply because their parents did not have ‘normal’ accommodation; and for persons who have succumbed to the associated depression – committed suicide.

Whilst Cr Spooner has not stated to whom the word ‘we’ refers, I have seriously considered changing the way that ‘we’ (federal, state and local governments) approach (providing) housing; and I have spent thousands of hours lobbying the appropriate government authorities – including Byron Shire Council (including Paul Spooner) – without success.

Perhaps demonstrating that political candidates should be required to study and obtain a Pass in Politics and Law – Paul Spooner has another revelation to share with the Electorate: ‘Did you know that it’s legal in NSW to offer a 99 year leases over land?’.

Really! Did you know that all land within the Commonwealth of Australia is subject of 99 year lease (from the Commonwealth of Australia) – the timeframe recommences with each transference of ‘ownership’ (of 99 years lease); i.e. individuals do not actually ‘own’ the land – rather own a 99 year lease hold of the land – which ‘the government’ (Federal, State or Council) may – subject to relevant legislation – cancel (to build a road – or pretend they want to build a road – confiscate the land – then change their minds – then sell the properties to persons who are not the owners of the leases that were terminated for the purpose of building a road – example: Glebe, Sydney).

‘Think about what this could mean for affordable housing if council or a community housing provider owned the land and you just build a house upon it’.

Rather than suggesting that others ‘think about’ idiotic ideas (legal reasons) – Councillor Spooner should ‘think about’ the role Byron Shire Council has played in creating the lack of affordable housing crisis in Byron Bay (and Byron Shire).

Once upon a time, the caravan parks located upon Crown Land Rest and Recreational Reserve provided affordable accommodation to hundreds of Byron Shire citizens.

Byron Shire Council deprived hundreds of financially disadvantaged local residents of access to that affordable accommodation alternative via unlawfully (without required referendum – permission of the Electorate) morphed all coastal caravan parks located on Crown Land Rest and Recreation Reserves (i.e. communal land) into ‘operational’ and unlawfully leased those publicly owned caravan parks to private enterprise – who raised the tariffs for site fees to be more than 100 per cent of Centrelink payments and limiting stays to 3 months for caravans/campervans and a mere 3 weeks for persons using a tent as alternative accommodation.

In Byron Bay, there are an estimated 10 times the number of bedrooms on land zoned residential than their are permanent residents.

Shirley Street North is 40,000 square metres of land zoned Residential (2A – belatedly rezoned R3 – to legitimise the hotels, motels, backpackers and other ‘tourist and visitor accommodation’ built with council complicity) – that is unlawfully 99.9% occupied by ‘tourist and visitor accommodation’ of a kind that is prohibited from Residential zones.

Cr Spooner should ‘think about’ the definition of lawful ‘holiday letting – i.e. a person renting his/her home – primary place of residence – to visitors for no more than 90 days per year) and unlawful ‘bed and breakfast’ (i.e. a person operating a home business from his/her home – primary place of residence); and cease pretending that a person, who is not a permanent resident of the subject residential premises, using a residential premises for ‘tourist and visitor accommodation’ is ‘holiday letting’ lawfully permitted within residential zones.

‘We need to stop thinking of housing and land as a commodity to generate wealth’. Who is ‘we’? This Pagan has never viewed housing and/or land as a commodity to generate wealth.

Access to land is a God given birth right and a house located upon land zoned residential is a home for human beings – not to be confused with an ‘investment’.

‘An affordable, secure and safe place to live should be seen as a fundamental human right, not a luxury beyond the reach of ordinary folk’.

It is a ‘fundamental right’. However, the British ‘government’ stole all the land and resources; and the Australian Federal government  (‘Christian’ colonialists representing the ‘best interests’ of the ruling class) implement policies and practices that ensure maximum tax benefits for ‘the government’ (ruling class) – that have a foreseeable consequence of lack of affordable residential properties.

Compounding the problem, the state government sold off a large percentage of publicly owned residential properties and transferred the majority of remaining publicly owned residential properties to ‘management’ by private enterprise housing organisations; and the state government – and complicit local governments (including Byron Shire Council) morphed every publicly owned coastal caravan park in New South Wales into private enterprise ‘tourist parks’ – depriving tens of thousands of human beings of access to that once affordable accommodation alternative (pitch a tent in a Council caravan park for $10 per night).

Cr Spooner may note that Labor did nothing to address the problems associated with negative gearing when it heldfFederal power – but with an election pending – why not promise to address the problem ‘this time’.

Before extolling the virtues of the Labor Party in relation to lack of affordable housing, Cr Spooner should research the role state Labor governments have played in relation to the Department of Housing (aka Housing NSW) forcibly acquiring all publicly owned residential premises under authority of Sydney City Council, evicting the residents, transferring ownership to private enterprise (under guise of ‘joint ventures’ that ended up 100 per cent privately owned); selling publicly owned residential premises to property developers and transferring ‘management’ of most of the public housing stock to private enterprise (‘social housing providers’).

Federal, state and local governments make millions from the current practices – including via artificially inflated residential property prices.

However, ‘the government’ is not the only cause: every person who purchases a residential property as an ‘investment’ – rather than a home – is investing in making another human being work to pay off the owner’s mortgage in the form of rent; and every person (other than a permanent resident of the premises) who uses a residential premises for commercial purposes –  ‘tourist and visitor accommodation’ – is ‘getting rich’ at the expense of depriving human beings (including children) of access to a home; and that is not only unlawful, it is immoral.

Morgan, Byron Bay


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